For the holidays, we’re shining the spotlight on Maine craftspeople. Shop locally and support innovators and entrepreneurs who keep the creative economy alive in this state. Each week, until the end of December, we will bring you this series until you can’t take it anymore. Ready. Set. Go.
Reclaimed Maine Buoys
The back story: Husband and wife Jesse and Sheryl Bennett started Reclaimed Maine Buoys in the midst of the pandemic when they had a lot of time on their hands.
“When my husband and I were cleaning our yard, we noticed we had a lot of scrap wood hanging around,” said Sheryl Bennett. “I started brainstorming about what I could do with some of it and hence the old-fashioned lobster buoys were reborn. I posted a photo of my buoys with my house number on them on Facebook and a friend loved them! I started making them just for friends & family but the business soon grew and I launched my Etsy. Of course, I didn’t have nearly enough wood to build enough to go around, so I started asking family, friends, and neighbors. After I exhausted that, I started searching Craigslist & FB marketplace for more. Now, I travel all throughout Maine and New England to procure used wood.
“My husband cuts, sands, and drills the hole in the wood, and I base paint each buoy, tape them out, stripe them and finally add a number,” she said. “We finish them off with reclaimed lobster rope. Some old and some newer. But never from a store. My purpose is to repurpose.”
These nautical buoys are all one of a kind and made from 100% reclaimed rustic wood complete with their own dings, dangs, cracks & imperfections. All are custom-made with a choice of one hand-painted number/digit per buoy or without a number.
Cost: $25 each. They can be found in their Etsy shop.
In their words: “Knowing that our buoys provide people with a little piece of Maine, makes creating them so much more fun!”
Sailcloth Toiletry Bag
The back story: Melissa Kalicin is the founder of Oceanum Vela and an avid sailor. She makes duffle bags and toiletry bags from upcycled sails.
“The real back story is that I sailed away six years ago since I live on a boat,” she said. “Pending climate change, I feared it becoming harder to do into the future. I went to the Caribbean where I met up with the Race Circuit there and got on some of the famous former Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) yachts. There, I saw them actually throw original old VOR sails away! I figured since dacron sails were repurposed all the time, why would we not salvage and repurpose the most elite, wonderfully branded sails that went around the world?”
Cost: $59 each plus shipping. Bags can be purchased through oceanumvela.net/shop
In her words: “The concept of the brand came from working in the sail industry, becoming a dedicated race fan, observing the sail repurposing production shops and thinking about how to improve on an already fantastic idea—to focus on even more conscious design, promote ocean health awarenesss, model a sustainability program for the global sailing community, and bring to the race fans around the world an extraordinary repurposed sail product—an actual piece of the race.”
Lobster Rope Wreaths
The back story: Jeanine O’Brien and her husband, Tim Barthelman, created a homedécor company, WharfWarp with eco-friendly products using only retired rope from Maine’s local lobstering industry.
“It started from an idea for a small craft fair in 2016, a simple nautical rope wall hanging has evolved into our signature wreath and doormat design,” said O’Brien.
“Our raw material was initially the remnants of a massive pile of rope collected during the 2009 lobster rope buyback program. Using self-made jigs, we hand weave the reclaimed rope into 100% upcycled and eco-friendly wreaths, doormats, and other items. We have since traveled the coast of Maine and its islands collecting rope from individual lobstermen. Thus far we have diverted 15 tons of waste rope from an unfitting end. The still-functional rope would otherwise be burned, buried, or improperly disposed of. The many lobstermen we’ve met along the way have opened our eyes to the ongoing marine waste issue in coastal communities.”
In their words: “The old rope has a lot more to give well after it reaches the end of its usefulness to fishermen. We are dedicated to using only retired fishing rope after seeing first-hand the volume of old material in need of an eco-friendly solution. Unfortunately, there are makers using new rope and ignoring the problem. "
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com